VFW baseball: Lake Elmo tops Mendota to earn state bid

Team members for the Lake Elmo VFW baseball team who captured the District 4 championship include, front row, from left, Aaron Parker, Austin Killen, Tuan DuFresne, Ben Borman, Mitch Novak, Nick Seeman and Adam Ahlgren. Second row, Coach Robbie Johnson, Matt Thompson, Holton King, Noah Potter, Noah Kunze, Will Frisch, Drew Gilbert, Jay Haws, Zach Cowley, DJ Andrews, Logan Jordan and coach Brent Killen. (Contributed photo)

ST. PAUL — The Lake Elmo VFW baseball team delivered a decisive victory to capture the District 4 championship and its first trip to the state tournament since 2015. Lake Elmo overwhelmed Mendota Purple 13-2 in six innings in the finale on Thursday, July 27 at Cretin-Derham Hall.

Post #9024 will face the Rochester Stars, which draws players from Century High School, in the opening round of the 10-team, double-elimination tournament, which will be held in Willmar on Aug. 10-13. The winner will face tourney host Willmar in the winners bracket quarterfinals.

“I know the kids have played extremely well and deserve to be representing our district in the state tournament,” Lake Elmo manager Robbie Johnson said.

After falling to Mendota Purple 1-0 in 10 innings in the winners bracket finals, Lake Elmo won two in a row to claim the district title. The locals forced a deciding final game after knocking off Mendota Purple 6-4 in an elimination game on Wednesday, July 26.

After tight battles in the two previous games, Lake Elmo controlled throughout in the finale.

Lake Elmo (28-9), which is now listed as Woodbury Red because Lake Elmo does not have a VFW post, jumped on Mendota Purple in the first inning with two runs on a base hit by Will Frisch, who also followed with a two-run blast in the third inning — his first of the season — to provide a 4-0 lead.

It was all the run support required for Ben Borman, who improved to 6-1 on the season. Borman scattered seven hits and three walks with six strikeouts in the complete game.

“Borman pitched so well, we were pretty much in control the whole time,” Johnson said. “He pitched fantastic against a good hitting team and Frisch got us going early with a two-RBI single and followed that up with a two-run home run.”

Lake Elmo also played error-free defense behind him.

Logan Jordan provided an RBI single in the fifth inning as Lake Elmo stretched its lead to 5-0. Mendota Purple finally broke through with a run in the bottom of the fifth, but Lake Elmo pulled away with eight runs in the top of the sixth.

Borman was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and the floodgates opened quickly from there. Jordan and Frisch each singled and Jay Haws pushed a run across after getting hit by a pitch. Aaron Parker delivered a two-run double and Mitch Novak pushed two more runs across with a base hit.

Drew Gilbert added to the outburst with an RBI double and Noah Kunze supplied another run-scoring single. Two errors led to Lake Elmo’s final run.

Post #9024 finished with 15 hits overall.

Lake Elmo finished fourth in its last state appearance when it was held in New Ulm. Several members of that team contributed to this year’s Stillwater Legion team that just competed in the Division I state tournament.

Mendota Purple ran out of pitching in the district tournament, but depth is one of Lake Elmo’s strengths. It’s one of the reasons the team is optimistic entering the state tournament.

In addition to Lake Elmo (Woodbury Red), Rochester Stars and host Willmar, the rest of the teams competing are Luverne, Duluth East, Winona, Centennial, Monticello, New Ulm Gold and Fergus Falls.

“That’s the thing with this group of kids,” Johnson said. “We have five legit pitchers we can feel comfortable winning under them regardless of who we’re playing. Even our sixth or seventh is still better than most teams’ four and five guys. This team is very deep with arms, which makes it easy playing back-to-back games because we can just go to the next guy.”

Contact Stuart Groskreutz at [email protected]